Kukla's Korner

23 Intently Staring Goalies

It’s a goalie showdown in the Western Conference Finals

The brackets are long broken, and the sportsbook numbers no longer make any sense whatsoever. What could cause such a one-two punch to amateur and professional wagering? How about a Phoenix/LA Western Conference final!

Neither Smith nor Quick were tagged as “the one” at the beginnings of their NHL careers, although Quick took the role in very little time. Under the coach and GM team of Darryl Sutter and Dean Lombardi, Quick’s star has risen, and he’s caught the attention of the national hockey press. Western Conference teams, and specifically Pacific Division teams, have had the “pleasure: of trying to get the puck past Quick this season, and once the Kings started to show some goal scoring support for their goalie, the team took off.

And Quick looks like he’s just getting started. The way I figure it, any goalie who has Bryan Hayward kvetching about him on national television, as wellas offering up tips on how to beat him, is a first-rate goaltender in my book.

Mike Smith took a more circuitous route to the Western Conference finals, and for awhile, it looked like he might end up buried in the Tampa Bay farm system. The Bryzgalov move to the flyers opened up a slot for him in Phoenix, and reunited with Dave Tippett, as well as coming under the tutelage of Sean Burke, has made this Mike Smith’s year with the Coyotes.  This is one of the aspects of goaltending that gets overlooked when you’re only looking at the numbers:

  1. Is the goalie a fit with the teams style?
  2. Does the goalie match well with the coach’s style
  3. Is the goalie coach the right one? Is he able to guide the goalie to be the best possible goalie for the goalie’s playing style, and not try to shove him into a mold?
    Corollary: Who’s the one getting paid to play—the goalie coach or the goalie? Think about it.

However, even into the playoffs, both Smith and the Coyotes were being discounted. While they were expected to make it past Chicago, Nashville was supposed to be a roadblock to Phoenix’s Stanley Cup plans. Instead, Nashville is going home, and Phoenix is looking forward to a series all in the same timezone.

So, are we looking forward to a lot of triple-overtime 1-0 games? Will the east coast press watch the sun come up a lot more than they bargained for? Both goaltenders have shown that they can double down when the heat is on—how far can they take it? Brew the coffee extra-strong, because we’re going to find out.


Curtis Zupke from nhl.com takes look at the upcoming series:

Quick and Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith will be the focal points. Quick had a 1.79 goals-against average against the Coyotes while Smith had a 1.76 GAA against Los Angeles during the regular season. Quick leads the playoffs with a 1.55 GAA (minimum four games played) while Smith is third at 1.77. Quick and Smith rank first and second, respectively, in save percentage at .949 and .948.

“They’re feeling really good about their goalie, and we’re feeling really good about our goalie,” Anze Kopitar said. “It’s a matter of cracking their goaltender.”


As well as Mike Halford from NBC Sports ProHockeyTalk:

Early punditry figures this series will be decided in net, where Jonathan Quick and Mike Smith have been their teams’ MVPs thus far (and two of the leading Conn Smythe candidates as well.) Being Pacific Division rivals, the two have faced off numerous times this season, reflected in their statistics:

Quick vs. Phoenix: 3-1-2, 9.32 save percentage, 1.79 GAA, two shutouts

Smith vs. L.A.: 3-1-1, .938 save percentage, 1.76 GAA, one shutout.


Filed in: | 23 Intently Staring Goalies | Permalink
  Tags: coyotes, goalies, goaltenders, jonathan+quick, kings, mike+smith


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About 23 Intently Staring Goalies

23 Intently Staring Goalies comes from the 23 close-up photos of goalies that used to line the walls of my office.

On the good side, it kept down interruptions, but it also made sure I had to leave my trash outside my door if I wanted it picked up.

I've been watching and analyzing goaltenders for going on 40 years. Some of that was spent drawing goalies on my grade 8 math homework. Then it was taking my card decks and printouts to Indianapolis Racer games. Luckily, the Internet took off, and by 1991 I was half of the duo that would ultimately become the Plaidworks hockey mailing lists. I wrote "Handicapping the Goalies' for the San Jose Sharks mailing list, and took a lot of photos of goalies in action. I have around 5000 slides of mostly goaltenders in action from 1989 through 2001 from the WHL, IHL and NHL. Since I've gone digital, I've added about 10,000 more images to the library. During summers and when the league went dark, I was reading through multiple SF By area news papers, tracking ice hockey from the 1917 recreational leagues up through the California Seals.

We'll be talking about goalies and goaltending. We'll talk about whats going on now, who's in the system, and when the doldrums hit, I'll haul something out of the big bag of history, or something from the photo archives. We'll talk about who's hot and why, and who's not and what they can do to get back on track. We'll take a look at the trends in scouting goalies, and why a style may work for one team but not another. I'll battle with my dictation software to get it to understand Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky.

It should be interesting--hope you want to come along for the ride!